Asthma Triggers and Treatment

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Asthma Triggers and Treatment

Asthma is a long-term disease that affects the airways, causing restriction and inflammation that leads to shortness of breath, coughing and difficulties in breathing.

It is a disease that can affect just about anyone and unfortunately it is incurable, although with current knowledge and treatments, it can be contained to such an extent that many people who have asthma can continue to live normal, unaffected lives.

But what causes asthma? Many medical experts consider that our modern way of life contributes heavily to the development of asthma, particularly from a young age. They argue that we tend to live in a much more hygienic and protected environment compared to previous generations.

The cleaner environment reduces the development of our immune systems to airborne allergens – such as dust mites and pet hair – and irritants such as tobacco smoke; as a result we are more likely to suffer from respiratory diseases such as asthma.

An asthma attack can be a frightening experience. From coughing, wheezing and tightness in the chest, a full-blooded asthma attack can leave you feeling unable to breathe.

A person who suffers from asthma has swollen, sensitive and inflamed airways. Certain substances, known as triggers, can increase the sensitivity of the airways, causing the muscles around the airways to contract, which in turn narrows the airways and allows less air to flow. In addition, allergic reactions to the trigger substance can cause the airways to secrete more mucus than normal, further restricting the airflow.

Asthma triggers can be many and varied, depending on each person. Physical causes can be air pollutants such as seasonal pollens, traffic pollution or high ozone levels.  Susceptibility to asthma can also be passed down from parents to children and asthma attacks can also be triggered by other factors or activities, such as exercising – particularly in cold, dry conditions – or even through experiencing emotional stress.

Because each asthma sufferer reacts to different triggers, it is important to work with your doctor to find out which treatment works best for you in controlling your asthma. In general, asthma treatments can be divided into two basic types – those providing quick relief from an attack, and longer-term medications that help reduce the airway inflammations.

An inhaler containing a short-acting beta2-agonist or an anticholinergic can be very helpful in providing quick relief from an asthma attack by reducing the swelling in the airways. However, in the longer term, controller medications – inhaled corticosteroids, which need to be taken regularly, reduce the risks of developing an asthma attack.

If you are an asthma sufferer, the following four-point plan will help you to live with your asthma:

  • Try to avoid exposure to anything that you know may trigger your asthma, such as pollens, pet hair or tobacco smoke.
  • Remember to take your long-term control medications at the prescribed intervals. Most need to be taken at least once each day to be fully effective.
  • Make sure you have your quick-relief inhaler with you at all times.
  • As soon as you feel an asthma attack coming, take your quick-relief medicine at once and try to stay as calm as possible, to get your breathing under control. Try to identify the trigger of your attack, so you can avoid it in the future.

If you have a severe asthma attack and your quick-relief inhaler doesn’t help, your breathing remains difficult, your heartbeat is unusually fast and you find it hard to walk or talk, don’t hesitate – contact your doctor or emergency services right away.

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